Henry Leigh Bibby was born in Liverpool on the 2nd of April 1873. His father, John Bibby, was a member of a well established family in the city. John Bibby’s property, Fachwen, served as his country estate and this is where he lived out his last days. His children continued to live there after his death in 1898.
John Bibby’s obituary in the Denbighshire Free Press describes him as being head of the well known firm J Bibby, Sons and Company: merchants, coppersmelters, and copper and yellow metal manufacturers. His other interests included an oilcake manufacturing business along with other commercial undertakings. He was a director of the North Wales and South Wales Bank, the Liverpool and London and Globe Insurance Company, the Mersey Forge, the Union Marine Insurance Company and had many other undertakings in the city.
He died at the relatively young age of 59 having been predeceased by his wife Frances Caroline (Grundy). They had many children. In 1881 they were living in Sefton Drive. By 1891 John Bibby was a widower and living in Fachwen with 8 of his children, one of whom was 18 year old Harry (Henry). The youngest child was 10 years old.
Henry must have been educated in Newcastle under Lyme School because his name appears on their Roll of Honour. He became a soldier well before the First World War. Having joined the Household Cavalry and Cavalry of the Line he served with the Duke of Lancaster’s Own Yeomanry.
According to an entry in The London Gazette he was promoted to the rank of Major in October 1908:
“Duke of Lancaster’s Own; the undermentioned officers, from the Duke of Lancaster’s Own Imperial Yeomanry, are appointed to the regiment, with rank and precedence as in the Imperial Yeomanry. Dated 1st April, 1908 :—
Major Henry Leigh Bibby. (To be supernumerary)”
The 1911 census shows him aged 38 and in Fachwen. His older sister was head of the household and his occupation is listed as ‘copper merchant’ and an employer. There were 4 younger sisters in residence at the time. None of the children was married and no occupation was mentioned for any of the girls. Does this mean that his sisters were dependant upon him? Was he running his father’s business? Where was his older brother Hugh? Were there any other brothers? Hugh, it would seem was residing with his young wife in Dublin and living on his own means. He too died relatively young – in 1920; his estate amounting to just £231.00
We know that Henry served in Egypt during the First World War. This obituary in the Denbighshire Free Press gives an account of what happened to him.
Col H Bibby of St Asaph Drowned
We deeply regret to find that the rumours that all last week prevailed in the city have proved correct as to the death by drowning of Col Harry Bibby, son of the late John Bibby, Fachwen, St Asaph and of the Garston Copperworks, Lancashire. When war broke out Col Bibby was in the Lancashire Yeomanry. He saw active service in Egypt and was subsequently invalided home. He was on board the Transylvania when it was torpedoed in the Mediterranean. The War Office has now reported the gallant officer “missing, believed drowned”
The Transylvania was originally built as a passenger liner for Cunard before becoming a troopship in May 1915. She could carry 200 officers, 2,860 men plus crew. On May 3 1917, the Transylvania sailed from Marseille to Alexandria with almost a full complement of troops, escorted by the Japanese destroyers Matsu and Sakaki. At 10am the following day she was off Cape Vado near Savona, Italy when she was struck twice in the space of an hour by torpedoes from German submarine u-63. The second torpedo proved fatal and the Transylvania sank within ten minutes. Twelve crew members, 29 army officers and 373 soldiers perished. The local people made valiant efforts to save lives and later to reclaim the bodies of those who had drowned. Those who were not found are remembered on the memorial in the town of Savona. Harry Bibby is one of them.
Henry left in excess of £27,000 in his will – a considerable sum. Probate was granted to Major Roderick Croil Lloyd who was listed as a visitor in Fachwen on the 1911 census return. He may have been the Fachwen estate land agent.
Henry is commemorated on a memorial in St Asaph Cathedral (see photo below). Clearly he was held in great esteem by his men.